Trump says acting attorney general showing ‘courage’: report

Trump says acting attorney general showing ‘courage’: report
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE is praising the man he appointed to serve as acting attorney general, privately telling associates that Matthew Whitaker has shown "courage" in the face of legal challenges posed by Democrats to his appointment, according to a report in Axios.

Citing a source close to the president, Axios reports that Trump likes that Whitaker is standing up for himself.

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"Clearly what he likes about him is he’s holding his ground, not running for the tall grass," the source close to the president told Axios.

"You can’t be attorney general if you have to walk away from really important work that an attorney general should be doing. And so you have a duty to really think carefully before you just throw up your hands and say: I don’t want to take that on or I want to run from that particular controversy," the source added.

Those remarks appear to refer to Trump's criticisms of the man Whitaker replaced: Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war McCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' MORE, whose recusal from Russian matters infuriated Trump.

Whitaker's appointment earlier this month means he is now the top official overseeing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's probe. Whitaker has criticized the investigation in the past and suggested a new attorney general could cut its funding.

"I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment, and that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt," Whitaker said on CNN in 2017.

Democrats mentioned Whitaker's views on the investigation in a lawsuit filed Monday seeking to block his appointment to the Justice Department, arguing that he does not have the "consent" of the Senate.

“The U.S. Senate has not consented to Mr. Whitaker serving in any office within the federal government, let alone the highest office of the [Department of Justice],” three Senate Democrats wrote in their lawsuit.